Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli underwent bimaxillary reconstruction surgery for sleep apnea in November, and Saturday marked the first time he discussed the procedure publicly.
Napoli thinks the surgery was a life-changing thing, and he discussed in depth the way sleep apnea impacted him on and off the field.
On the process itself: “It’s been long. Obviously I had the surgery on my face, on my jaw. I’ve been sleeping better. It was a brutal process, but I think it worked. But I’m getting better sleep. I wake up early in the morning, get my day started. It’s been good.”
How brutal was the surgery? “It was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever done, to tell you the truth. The broke my upper and lower jaw, moved it forward and almost doubled my airway space. But yeah, I spent two days in the ICU after. I mean, 10 days of just pain. Just sitting there, I couldn’t really do anything. I walked around a little bit.”
On the after-effects: “But it’s worked. I still have some complications. I don’t have feeling in my lips, my chin, just because they stretched out my jaw so far and all the nerves take time to come back. It can be like a year, up to a year to come back. But I’m pretty much used to it. I had to go through six weeks of a liquid diet, which is brutal. I lost a lot of weight, but I mean, I gained it back. I just started working out probably about two, 2-1/2 weeks ago, which is going good. I haven’t really lost too much strength. And we mapped it out to where it looks like I’ll be ready for Opening Day.”
What was it like living with sleep apnea? “I mean, it’s been tough. I’ve had this for a long time. We tried to do different things. I tried to wear a C-Pap, which is a positive pressure mask. I tried medication, I tried a dental piece; I tried pretty much everything. It got to a point to where it worked for a couple hours and then I’d wake up. I was taking medicine to fall asleep with all the devices on, and eventually I’d wake up a couple hours later and I can’t take more medicine.”
How it impacted him at the ballpark? “It was tough. I missed batting practice. I’d be sleeping during batting practice, wake up for the game. So it was hard. I was always tired. There were games that I came out of that people didn’t really know what happened, but it was because I was dizzy and really sleep-deprived. I couldn’t really focus. It was tough, but what I did, the process I went through to how I’m feeling now, I’m dreaming now. The past eight years I haven’t had a dream because I never went into the REM. It was always a battle playing in the game and trying to get through a game. Our game is a grind, going every day.”
Optimistic: “I know it’s going to work. It’s going to be better for me, just because I’m dreaming. I wake up at 6 in the morning and start my day. I don’t remember the last time I’ve done that.
Now you sleep regularly? “Yeah, I mean, I sleep eight hours. What I used to do is I’d sleep and I’d probably wake up 50 to 100 times a night. I’d lay in bed until 12 o’clock trying to get sleep but never really do, but I’d be so tired. And I’d go to the field and start my day, try to do my routine, sometimes sleep during batting practice and just try to sleep.”
The feeling in your lips now, or lack thereof? “You know you go to the dentist and get novocaine? It’s gotten to the point now to where you know when it starts getting numb, the tingling? My upper lip is like that and my teeth, the front of my teeth, I can’t really feel the roof of my mouth. They said it could be up to a year. It might not ever come back. But being young — this surgery was usually for the 50-year-old range. But the doctor was saying, me being so young, everything should come back. But it could be up to a year. But I’m comfortable. It’s not like it’s holding me back or anything. It’s a little weird watching me chew food. I used to drink water and it would just drip all over my shirt.”
Time-table for baseball: “I’m going to be ready for Opening Day. It’s almost like my hip issue, when I was held back, when I really couldn’t do anything. We just mapped it out to where I’d be ready for spring training. It’s probably going to almost be like that. I’m hitting. I started hitting, I’m throwing, I’m lifting weights, I’m running. It’s just, I couldn’t clench my teeth for a certain amount of time. I just needed the bones to heal properly. I got the full-go from the doctor.
More on time-table: “Yeah, I mean, I don’t feel like I’m that far behind. I think more for me it’s endurance. I’m lifting right now. My strength is there. I’ve been hitting off the tee, which I really only do this time of year anyways. I never start hitting until I get down to spring training. I’m going down the 3rd to spring training. All the trainers are down there, I’ll just follow them down there. Everything’s looking good.”
One positive to come out of all this? Napoli no longer chews tobacco. “Yeah. I’m happy about that.
Permanently quit tobacco? “I hope so. Maybe I’ll keep this feeling out of my lip for a while so I don’t.”
More on what it was like: “It was kind of crazy because I was so sleep deprived, I’d try to drink a red bull and it would give me a total, bad effect. I was trying to get energy any way I could and it wasn’t working.”
The dizziness? “Yeah, I don’t think it was from the red bull. I was just so tired. You ever have a bad night’s sleep? I had it for eight years. I never really got a good night sleep.”
Crossroads? “I couldn’t do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling. I was like, I need to have the surgery or I’m not going to play anymore — that’s how bad it was. That’s why I went to go to this procedure. I came in and I was like, I need to have the surgery now. But with my hip issue, I was taking the osteoporosis medicine, which the healing of the jaw bones … That’s why I waited until November. Because I needed to wait a month to be off that medicine. Thank God I stopped taking that medicine because I had an MRI and my hips actually got better. I was like, I’m done taking that. I just didn’t want to take all these medications. I stopped taking it and I had to wait one more month because you’re supposed to be off the medicine for like three months and I stopped taking it for like two months. That’s why we had to wait.”
Way more energy now: “Yeah, it’s been great. I find myself doing stuff around the house. I was telling someone the other day, I was doing stuff around the cage and before, I was so lazy and tired, I’d be like, I don’t even want to pick up the balls. Now, I drop my bat, [pick up the balls] and it’s like, boom, boom, boom, I had energy. I could do stuff around the house, doing laundry or whatever, cleaning up the house. I had energy to do that stuff. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t lazy. It’s been a good offseason, it’s been a tough offseason, but I think it’s worth it.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed several topics today at his annual State of the Winter Meetings address. Here is a sampling:
On the bullpen: “”Well, first, I think having Koji in place to go back to a closer is a key part of the bullpen. He and Junichi’s presence back there are guys that have been good performers for us in high‑leverage situations. We still have some needs there. And that is yet to be addressed. So I’m confident, and I think we’re all confident that the resources are here to bring in the best available guys.”
Will Burke Badenhop return? “He is a guy that we’ve had conversations about. And yet there’s a fairly large number of pitchers that are still available. As Burke is going to have options where he might go. He did a great job for us last year. We’re still addressing all those needs, starter and bullpen.”
How many starters do the Red Sox need? “We’ve looked at two spots in the rotation as being the need to fill. How those are filled remains to be seen, but that’s the approach right now.”
On where things stand with Cespedes: “We’ve talked about the potential position that he could find himself in from a defensive alignment. Center field and right field are both options for him. We know we have a deep and talented group of outfielders. And Ben has been on record and it’s been mentioned that the potential exists for one of those guys to be dealt. Who that is we don’t know. But we have the luxury of a deep lineup and a deep position player group right now and that includes a number about of outfielders.”
How is Pedroia? “He’s doing great. He really is. He’s able to swing the bat a little bit off the tee. Physically the strength and the range of motion continues to improve. And I think one of the more exciting things as we go into and begin to get closer to Spring Training is getting Pedroia back to 100 percent health and strength.”
How is Victorino? “The volume is going to be our guide on how he responds to that. Everything points to him being on the field and in full baseball activity whether camp starts up. There’s been frequent conversation with Vic and some video he will send himself and the workouts he’s going through. He’s in a good place physically and mentally right now.”
What does Victorino mean to the Red Sox? “When we look back to 2014, the first year that he was here, he did such a great job for us, he impacted the game in a number of ways each day he’s on the field. He’s a vocal leader, he leads by example. And we missed him when he was out of lineup.”
Plans for Mookie Betts? “Positionally we still see him as an outfielder. We’ve talked about a deep outfield group. But the one thing that’s been impressive of Mookie, when we look back in the three different times he came up, there was tangible improvements and adjustments he made with each return trip to the Big Leagues. For a young player he’s got such a unique combination of on‑base ability and strike zone awareness. He’s a good‑looking player. And you kind of marvel at the aptitude he shows at an early age. And that’s an exciting thing.”
Mookie at the top? “I think as we get through the remainder of this offseason we’ll have a clearer picture of that. And certainly once we assemble in Ft. Myers, those things will be worked through as we get there. But the work that Mookie did last year and how he profiles, there’s a strong candidate to be in the top part of the order.”
Important to have steady leadoff hitter? “Ideally. I think we always strive to have continuity in the lineup. Guys that come into the ballpark they know when they’re going in the lineup each and every day, they have a general idea where they’re going to be within positions in the lineup. And I think that sits well with guys, just that common thought and understanding.”
Favorite for the leadoff spot? “I hink we’ve got all our in‑house candidates that are there. Mookie being the strongest at this point. But that’s not to anoint him the opening day leadoff guy.”
Allen Craig? “Like every other player, there’s routine checkups, whether that’s as Pat or others will travel out to witness their workouts and check in with them by phone. He’s having what would be considered a normal offseason, and that’s getting past the foot injury he went into. And we fully expect him to be back to full capacity.”
Nobody was more excited than Red Sox infield instructor Brian Butterfield over Dustin Pedroia winning his fourth Gold Glove, and second consecutive.
“I really feel like he impacted his position more than anybody else has impacted any position in baseball,” Butterfield said by phone. “I think he’s the defensive player of the year. I think until the day they take the uniform off him, he’s always going to be looking for ways to get better.”
“When I vote for the Gold Glove, I look at a lot more than just flash and flare and all the things that make SportsCenter,” said Butterfield. “There’s so much that goes into it. You can see how guys prepare, the way they play, the way they back up bases, the way they get their uniforms dirty, and for me, he is the benchmark for all defenders in our league.”
“When we do our stuff in Spring Training, and we introduce it or talk about it as a a team out on the field, there you see Number 15 front and center,” Butterfield said. “He’s front and center right next to the person talking. It makes you feel good. It’s the same way if manager John [Farrell] is addressing the club or [bench coach] Torey [Lovullo]. It doesn’t matter.
“There’s number 15 front and center where everyone on the team sees him. I think it creates an atmosphere where other people see him and say, ‘well this guy is really intense and really attentive to what we’re doing so I better get in line too.”’
Rusney Castillo took his next step up the ladder on Tuesday night, as he joined Triple-A Pawtucket for Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup Championship.
Here is what Rusney had to say in today’s pre-game session with the media:
“It’s been good. obviously it’s been a gradual step from one level to the other and it’s helped me find my game, which obviously I hadn’t played in a year and a half. It’s been extremely beneficial just to find myself as a player again.”
Biggest adjustment? “You know it’s just getting back to that daily grind of playing every day and getting live Abs and just being able to make in-game adjustments is something he hadn’t done for a while.”
Moving from Gulf Coast to Eastern League and then International League? “Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a difference from the rookie level up to the eastern league specifically in the pitching, not necessarily about the stuff but more the strike zone and the guys being around the zone a little bit more in the eastern league than in the GCL.”
Getting just one step from the Big Leagues: “You know, it’s human nature to think about the big leagues and playing for the Red Sox at some point. I definitely focus at every level that I’m at. I have my mind on the moment and improving and getting better.”
Adjusting to life in America? “I stay in the room, love music, learning the music of this country. Nothing that really sticks out. Just talking and meeting you people.”
Nice to have some good results in early Minors action? “Obviously I focus on the process which is the only thing he could control. But it’s also a good feeling to see results, to see the discipline and the hard work pay off.”
The Red Sox, after waiting patiently for Jackie Bradley Jr. to start hitting, optioned the rookie center fielder back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Mookie Betts, ranked by MLB.com as Boston’s No. 1 prospect, was recalled from Pawtucket on Monday to take Bradley’s spot on the roster.
This is the third stint for Betts with the Red Sox this season, but he could have a more defined role with Bradley’s spot in center field no available. Betts batted eighth against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson on Monday night at Fenway.
Brock Holt, who has played everywhere but pitcher and catcher this season, could also see more time in center in the coming weeks.
Bradley was originally supposed to start the season at Triple-A. But when Shane Victorino strained his right hamstring in the last game of Spring Training, Bradley was recalled for Opening Day.
The left-handed hitter had spent the entire season on the Major League roster until being informed after Sunday’s game that he was headed back to Triple-A.
Interestingly, the decision to send Bradley down came the same day he had two hits against the Astros, marking his first multi-hit game since July 25.
Though he has played spectacular defense, Bradley has struggled to sustain any kind of consistency at the plate.
He’s batting .216 with 19 doubles, two triples, one home run, 30 RBIs, 45 runs and 31 walks.
The Red Sox felt Bradley was coming around during a 51 at-bat stretch from July 5-25, when he hit .353 with a .411 on-base percentage.
But he spiraled downward at a rapid pace after that hot streak, hitting .115 with no extra basehits and just two walks over his last 52 at-bats.
The reason Bradley stuck around for so long despite the prolonged struggles was made obvious every time he made a great play with his glove or arm.
Bradley leads all Major League outfielders with 13 assists and eight double plays. Over the last two seasons, Bradley has appeared in 149 games and hit .210.
Betts, 21, has appeared in 13 games this season and hit .244 (10-for-41) with two doubles, one homer, two RBIs and six runs while splitting time between right and center field. He has hit .346 in 99 minor league games across Double-A and Triple-A this season.
Though trading ace Jon Lester is undoubtedly hard for the Red Sox and their fans, it becomes a little easier when you factor in the return. By packaging Lester and Jonny Gomes, the Red Sox get Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder with the type of power the club currently lacks beyond David Ortiz.
Though the arrival of Cespedes is probably too late to salvage Boston’s postseason hopes this season, he gives them a cornerstone for 2015, and perhaps beyond.
There’s at least a chance Cespedes will debut for the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park in a rivalry matchup with the Yankees.
Cespedes, who is mainly a left fielder but has also started three games in center this season, came over from Cuba in 2012. The Red Sox had interest in him at that time before he signed with Oakland.
The 28-year-old Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 contact when he went to the Athletics. Per terms of his original contract, he can become a free agent if he isn’t re-signed by October 31, 2015, or five days after the last game Boston plays that season.
Though the Red Sox have long valued Lester as a pitcher, a teammate and a leader, his contract expires at the end of this season and the club feared losing him for nothing more than draft compensation.
To this point, Boston had been unable to find common ground on a contract with the lefty, who was masterful last October in helping guide Boston to a World Series title.
A few days ago, Lester told reporters he would still be open to re-signing with the Red Sox even if he got traded.
So there’s at least a chance Boston could have a 2015 roster that features Lester as the ace and Cespedes as a key bat.
For the short term, Lester and Gomes have a legitimate chance to play in the World Series for the second straight season. The Athletics own the best record in the Majors at 66-41.
The sight of watching Cespedes take aim at the Green Monster should bring some joy to Red Sox fans, who have been disenchanted at watching the defending World Series champions get off to a 48-60 start and fall 13 games out in the American League East.
The Red Sox did nothing to diminish rumors that Jon Lester will be traded to a contender when they scratched him from Wednesday night’s start against the Blue Jays.
“Yeah, Brandon Workman will start tomorrow,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “In light of all the uncertainty surrounding Jon Lester, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests that he does not make that start, so Brandon will be recalled. There will be a corresponding move roster-wise at some point tomorrow.”
By scratching Lester from his Wednesday start, the Red Sox could increase the urgency of their suitors to sweeten their offer in advance of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.
Also, Lester becomes more attractive to a potential suitor if he can pitch immediately after a trade, rather than having to wait until Monday.
Numerous teams have talked to the Red Sox about Lester, and there was a lot of buzz about the Pirates on Tuesday. The Dodgers are another possible destination, though they’ve thus far been unwilling to part with the type of top prospects (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) the Red Sox seek. The Marlins have also expressed interest, according to Jim Bowden of MLB Network radio.
While Red Sox veterans were still hoping the lefty would stay, they were bracing for the possibility of his exit.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” said Dustin Pedroia, who came up with Lester through the farm system and has won a pair of World Series titles with him. “We’re not teammates – we’re family. It’s something you don’t like going through. It makes you feel worse. We don’t want to be in this position. I know a lot of guys feel that if you play up to your capability … we should be adding instead of subtracting. Hopefully he’s here.”
Though Jon Lester could well be traded by Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, two sources told MLB.com that the Red Sox are not interested in acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers in exchange for the lefty, contrary to a rumor that surfaced Sunday.
In fact, there has yet to be a lot of dialogue between the two teams, though the Dodgers, with World Series aspirations, could certainly become a player for lefty. If the Dodgers were successful in getting Lester, they would have the most impressive front three in the game, featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Lester.
If the Red Sox are to trade Lester, they would need at least one top-level prospect. Would the Dodgers be willing to part with center field prospect Joc Pederson? If so, talks could heat up quickly. But there’s been no indication to this point Los Angeles would include Pederson.
Though Lester certainly warrants a top prospect or prospects in return, he amounts to a two-month rental. Lester is eligible for free agency at season’s end, and he indicated that even if he does get traded, his top desire would still be to return to Boston as a free agent.
Lester has been red-hot of late, pitching perhaps the best baseball of his career. He is scheduled to start for the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Fenway against the Blue Jays, the final game before the trade deadline.
A scenario that seemed unfathomable when the season started — the Red Sox contemplating a trade of ace Jon Lester — can no longer be ruled out. With the defending World Series champions close to fading out of contention and Lester a free agent at season’s end, Boston general manager Ben Cherington will at least listen to offers regarding the lefty, who has been red-hot over the last few weeks.
“I’m not going to comment on any particular player,” said Cherington. “We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there. Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015. And so that might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff. It might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon.”
Interestingly, Lester said he would harbor no hard feelings toward the Red Sox if they traded him and he would still be interested in trying to re-sign with Boston in November even if traded in July.
“We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed: We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015,” said Cherington.
Twice in his career, Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy has been traded just prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Peavy is realistic enough to know that a third deal could happen before this month ends.
Peavy (1-7, 4.64 ERA) has struggled this season and so have the Red Sox, who entered Tuesday trailing by 10 games in the American League East.
“We all our professionals and understand this time of year,” said Peavy. “At the same time, our focus is here and trying to figure out a way, me personally, to get better, for Saturday night in Houston. And to help my teammates get prepared to win tonight.”
There have been rumblings that the Cardinals, who pursued Peavy last summer before he went to the Red Sox, could be a destination. One reason it might make sense for Boston to move Peavy is that it would open up a roster spot for Rubby De La Rosa, the hard-throwing righty who has been dominant at times when given the chance.
“This will be my third time my name has really been thrown out there with a legitimate chance to be traded, and I’ve been traded twice previous,” said Peavy. “I do understand what this is like. I don’t have any anxiety if it were to happen. I’m going to handle things because I know the whole process. Like I said, it’s a difficult one.”
Even though Peavy is the ultimate professional, it is unsettling for any player to wonder if their life will be uprooted in the middle of the season.
“My life is in Boston – everything I have,” said Peavy. “And to pick and move to a new city where you don’t know anybody, it’s challenging times for anybody. But that being said, and having been through it, there’s no anxiety about any of that. I really won’t comment on anything in the future until really something happens because it does nobody any good.”
On July 31, 2009, Peavy was traded from the Padres to the White Sox. And last year, his deal to Boston happened on July 30.
“I’ll handle it the way I handled it last year and the way I’ve handled it before,” said Peavy. “Just try to continually not lose focus on the task at hand. The task at hand is to come here to work, to get better. It’s to get ready to win your next time out. We all certainly understand the situation, the times we’re in. At the end of the day, it’s not our job to be wrapped up in that.
“We answer questions when asked about it. We certainly are kept abreast through our representation and good dialogue with the front office and to have an idea what’s going on with your situation. But at the end of the day, it’s not in our control. Put your head down and work. That’s what I’ve done the past few years and if something happens, you get called in and just go from there. At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to comment on any kind of heresy and any kind of rumors. It is what it is. My head is here.”
And until Peavy hears anything different, he plans on pitching for the Red Sox against the Astros on Saturday in Houston.
Peavy takes pride in pitching for the Red Sox, and that includes the good times like last year and even the struggles of this season.
“I’ve said it since I’ve got here,” said Peavy. “This place, being in this room, is home to me. There’s a lot of people here in the year that I’ve spent here in Boston that are very, very special to me and that’s on the field and off the field. When you experience what we all got a chance to go through last year, you become extremely tight.
“And when you go through times like these, you find out who your buddies are and who’s with you and who’s in your corner. I love this place and I’ve said that since Spring Training — I’ve always wanted to be here.”
Though this season has been a long way from the Cy Young season Peavy had for the Padres in 2007, he cautions people not to give up on him.
“I’ve got a lot of baseball left in me and good baseball too,” said Peavy. “So I’m just going to try to work and be a pro. That’s the only way I know how to be, to be the best teammate I can be and the be the best employee I can be and that’s doing everything I can do to get myself better to help the Red Sox win.”